The value or using a good manager/valet
So…it seems a whole week has passed since I last sat down to have a good moan about something, how time flies eh? I left off last week having posed a question to you about ‘first impressions’ and how stuff that we post on the internet (mainly on YouTube) these days has a huge impact on how we are perceived overseas. I have been fortunate enough over the years to get to pick the brains of several top US imports and even had a few all night drinking sessions with a few of them, I will head off on a tangent now and splill the beans on one such evening…..Ed McGukin aka Jigsaw/Rubix of Chikara/TNA fame being one of the most fun guys I have ever sat up all night drinking with. Following a Southside show in Nottingham where I had been involved in Stixx’s match with Jigsaw, he was to stay at my house, which has become notorious for being a bit of a ‘party house’. A few guys came back after the show and were picking his brains and asking advice etc and the evening started in sensible enough fashion. Ed was booked on another show further up north the following day and was also scheduled to do a 1pm seminar (meaning that he needed to leave Nottingham by about 9am) so we were aware that the evening probably shouldn’t run too late and he should be allowed some sleep before setting off for the long day ahead of him…..unfortunately, when it comes to me and getting someone drinking, things don’t always go according to plan! We got him some ‘Budweiser’ – which is not to my taste at all and is something I had nicknamed “Yankee Piss Water” and he happily sat up destroying a crate of that as well as an entire bottle of Jack Daniels with me until the early hours of the morning… we had hardly even noticed the room depleting in numbers until one of us finally looked at the clock which read 7:23am….. I think you can imagine the rest!! Poor Jimmy Havoc arrived at mine to collect Ed at bang on 9am and just stood shaking his head at me (something that Jimmy, also being notorious for enjoying a beer was clearly finding pretty amusing!). I bid Ed a fond farewell and headed for my bed! We often still joke of the ‘Yankee Piss Water’ evening and of all the imports I have been lucky enough to work with, Ed is one that I would really hope to see back over here in 2014, a very talented guy and a thoroughly top bloke!!
It seems, I have gone off topic somewhat so let’s swerve back to the issue at hand….one of the things I always ask the US guys when they are over is “How is British Wrestling though of in the USA?” – I am often greated with the response of “Oh it’s great” – that is until I explain to them that I would rather have an honest answer than the polite one and am then usually horrified to hear of what the real opinion overseas is and the reasons behind it. When it boils down to it, stuff that is posted on the internet plays a big part in how our scene is viewed overseas. Stuff like my old favourite BWA, UKW and an absolute joke of a ‘promotion’ called GBW – run by a toff strawb posh boy named Philip Broughton are all classic examples of shoddy production, shoddy work and poorly booked shows that make no sense even to half the people booked on them! For me, 90% of the time, it isn’t even the actual ‘performers’ on the show that are the problem, it is the way the shows are booked, let’s take Jonathan Sedgwick’s UKW as an example again, this is a promotion that was started SOLELY for the purpose of the promoter being able to play ‘wrestler’, Mr Sedgwick is not a trained performer, yet he does TRAIN other people (work that one out!). The stuff they have poured out on TV (all be it a very poor time slot – which it was alleged that they PAID the TV company for) and the stuff they have floating about on YouTube is the absolute drizzling shits….and as I pointed out last week…the title of the promotion… UKW – UNITED KINGDOM WRESTLING!!! Anyone overseas who is not in the know would see that and think that they represented the UK as a whole…. wanna see where I am headed with this…. remember I spoke of GBW above…. hazard a guess as to what that stands for…. yep…you got it didn’t you… GREAT BRITISH WRESTLING! If that isn’t false advertising and misrepresentation of the current state of our scene then I don’t know what is!! As I said, for me it isn’t even the performers on the show that are to blame for the majority of it, they are being booked and told what to do by these ‘promoters’ who choose to film the shows and bung them all over YouTube, so please do not think that I am singling out any performances made by the actual workers, at the end of the day, you do what are asked to do by the promotion paying your wages or you just don’t go back! Moral of the story… if you have no value in production or the quality of show that you are putting on, DON’T go sticking it all over the internet for the world to see!
Now that that is off my chest, you may recall the title of this week’s column being “The value of using a good manager/valet” so I suppose it is about time I actually focused on what the point of this week’s column was to be. As the majority of you may know, one of the hats I wear often on a show is a ‘Manager’, something that I am often asked how I got into. Well, in all honest I kind of fell into it by accident with the suggestion again coming following a drunken evening at my own house. I shan’t go into details of this one so as not to embarrass the relevent party but lets just say that the topic of conversation turned to discussing one of my heroes, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and I put it to the person I was speaking to that I would love the opportunity to progress from ‘Ring Announcer’ which was something I had been doing on shows for a while by then into a full on ‘character’ based gimmick like that…and so “The Man With The Golden Tongue” was born, despite being booked elsewhere on the back of the conversation, I actually debuted the gimmick on a Southside show back in August 2012, a show in which I appeared 3 times, accompanying Max Angelus in his match with Mark Haskins, Stixx in his match with Davey Richards (who kicked me in the face on that show!) and then with The Predators as they battled Project Ego and won the Southside Tag Team Titles…..you could call it a baptism of fire!! The following evening I was at it again with Southside, most notably in matches involving Spud (now doing so well for himself in TNA) as he took on Max Angelus is a 3 second classic and then with Stixx as he became Southside Heavyweight Champion beating Mark Haskins in one of the most fun and exhausting matches I have ever been involved in. You could say the gimmick was an instant and overnight success, getting heat from the crowd in Nottingham as my antics drew them in and convinced them that I was the next anti-christ of British Wrestling, unfortunately for me, I let the success go to my head and believed that I knew it all then and that doing the gimmick was always going to be easy…..oh how I learned following that weekender!!!
My first ‘fuck up’ so to speak came a month or so later down in Stevenage, Stixx was taking on Martin Kirby in front of a 400+ strong crowd, a lot of the faces sat in the front row were similar to those that had boo’d me so vocally in Nottingham and I was totally caught up in the moment, I missed my queue on a spot and caused Stixx & Kirby to need to change what was going on in the match because I was too busy berating a woman in the front row. When we got back behind the curtain, Stixx let rip at me and really made me understand the importance of paying attention to what is going on in the ring at all times. Working the crowd is one thing, but if it detracts from the hard work going on inside the ring or causes the audience to miss an important spot then it is more harmful to the match/show than actually not being there at all. My next huge error came at Southside’s 2nd Anniversary show…to this day, it is still the only match that I have been involved in for Southside that I have never plucked up the courage to watch back. Now, I am certainly not taking full responsibility for the whole thing as the match from start to finish was a comedy of errors but I certainly played my part in the fiasco. The match was Max Angelus vs the then CZW champion ‘Masada’ and my good friend Russell ‘Whitey’ Smith was the assigned referee for the match. Between us we spoke of the spots in the match and the main part for me was to happen following a big move in the corner where Masada had the upper hand on Max and was about to pin him, I was to pull the referee out of the ring and break the count. I don’t know what was going on with Masada that day but he also seemed slightly off his game and the move (or something very similar) came far too early in the match, being quite green, I took this as my queue and hauled out poor Russ, the look on Max’s face a picture as he was left in the ring with a full 7 or 8 minutes still to do and the finish now being totally blown. To say that the match turned from bad to worse from that moment would probably be a fair description and we ended up with Russell having no option but to strike me in the face, something that took all of the attention away from the ring, then sending me to the back with me still needing to get back out there again for the finish. Pick up the Southside 2nd Anniversary show on DVD to see the rest of what happened… if having read this, you can sit through that match without laughing you will have done better than I could!
Luckily, from that point forward I think I started to learn where I was going wrong (although I’m sure Mark Haskins & Kris Travis could both tell another story of me putting them in a difficult position – I did have a legit concussion at the time though!), Joe Conners, who for me, is one of the best ‘minds’ around at the moment and someone with more natural talent and raw ability than most pulled me to one side after a match when I was out with the Predators and filled me in on the art of not distracting the crowd whilst major spots were going on in the ring, it was incredibly useful to me to hear it broken down fully in the eyes of a wrestler, as to what they needed from me in order to make the gimmick successful, I learned that when I was not involved in spots or in the action, I needed to become almost invisible at ringside, I spend a lot of time moving around the ring so as not to stand in one place for too long and obscure anyone’s view, as again, the last thing that the crowd want to see is the back of my fat head whilst they are trying to see what is happening in the ring. It is something that with practice has come to me and I now feel that I am more than capable of not obscuring anyone’s view during the match. I received some very welcome praise from The Indy Corners’s own Adam Blake with regards to my performance during Stixx’s match with MK McKinnan that took place last year in Huntingdon, myself and Adam had been involved in a bit of a war of words in October 2013 following a comment that was made that I took exception to, so to receive praise from an unlikely source was probably the highest form of praise that I could receive on a personal level. I am pleased to say that Adam and myself have buried the hatchet now and can put our differences down to experience.
So, I have covered the bad stuff and as it stands, any promoters or wrestlers who may have been considering booking a valet or a manager for their shows are probably thinking…why the hell would I run the risk of putting someone extra out there who could make it harder for the people in the ring or even blow a major spot in the process! Getting yourself a good manager or valet gimmick on a show can be very beneficial to the show and to the match/matches in which they are involved. The visual aspect when coming though the curtain of seeing a wrestler have a ‘helping hand’ in tow adds a completely new dimension to the match dynamic and that initial visual of a solid ‘unit’ with all parties on the same page or heading for the same goal is one that does stick in the mind of the viewing audience. Let’s face it, me being paired with Stixx or indeed with The Predators is not because any of them are incapable of getting themselves over or indeed that they need me to do their talking for them! There we have 3 of the very best talents that the UK has to offer and all are as competent with the microphone in their hand as they are in the ring. The gimmick has worked for us both in Southside and in Leicester Championship Wrestling because of the visual aspect of it, someone once likened us to a ‘modern day Four Horsemen’, a compliment of the highest order as when it comes to a group of guys, there is probably not a group who have had as much success or left as much of a mark on wrestling as a whole anywhere in the world. Would the gimmick work for Stixx & The Predators as a group without me being there? Of course it would, but would the visual aspect of it be as impressive as 3 talented workers ‘fronted’ by a smartly dressed (yes I have taken to wearing suits for the manager role) loud mouthed manager be the same? I don’t know if it would or not.
When you look back to the ‘glory days’ of the WWF, you remember the likes of Bobby Heenan, Jim Cornette, Jimmy Hart, Mr Fuji, Captain Lou Albano etc, you remember that the status of a guy and his profile/spot on the card was automatically raised if he was managed by any of these guys, the audience associated the ‘manager’ gimmick with being something that bred success and you could almost guarantee that at some point that year, at least part of the stable would be wearing gold around their waste. Did guys like Ravishing Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, Demolition, The Road Warriors (with Paul Ellering) etc NEED a manager? Did they need someone to give them charisma? Did they need someone to do their talking for them? No, they didn’t, all were more than capable of cutting some of the best and most classic promo’s going, so WHY did it work so well that they were associated with a manager? In my opinion, they did it to add new dimensions to the match and to plant in the audience’s mind that these were the crop of guys that you should be watching out for….after all….would a manager ever be paired with someone who wasn’t going places? Would they ever be put with a guy who was going to be jobbed out every show? No, of course they wouldn’t, the manager/valet gimmick suggests success for that party.
So, if you are a promoter reading this and are still in two minds as to whether paying a manager to be on your show could be beneficial (and most manager gimmicks ask for a VERY reasonable fee for what they can bring to the table), then ask yourself this…. do I have a guy on my roster that is ALMOST ‘there’ but hasn’t quite got the profile for me to push towards a main event spot? If someone has instantly sprung to mind then you have already answered my next question… could this guy benefit from having the visual effect of having a manager? Would this potentially benefit his character and start to show my audience that this is a guy to be taken seriously? I would urge any serious promoter, who is intent on making their promotion into a force to be reckoned with to seriously consider the huge benefit of finding yourself a decent manager gimmick or valet to accompany your ‘nearly man’ to the ring. It is also a common misconception that all managers or valets have to work with a heel, of course they don’t, just look at Miss Elizabeth from her time with Randy Savage, the lady herself was as over with the fans as Randy was. If you are a wrestler, sat there wishing you could get onto the bigger shows or get more bookings but feel there are another 50 guys in the UK who do stuff very similar to you or offer the same type of character, then maybe it is time you approached one of the great managers/valets that we have in the UK already, ask them if they would be interested in working with you and approach promotions with them in mind to manage you…as I said, having a manager always tends to breed success, so you never know how many more doors this kind of gimmick could open for you, don’t sit there and think, “I would prefer to do it on my own” or that you wouldn’t benefit from it as there are always options available.
I suppose in closing it would only be right to give some suggestions of the kinds of people that you should be looking to approach if this is the gimmick you are looking for….up in Scotland there is one man that stands out, Charles Boddington (real name Graham McKay), a man whom I myself have approached for advice and listened to. In England, I think we have a great crop of managers at the moment, obviously my own character “The Man With The Golden Tongue” is available to any promotions or workers looking to gain a new dimension to their gimmick, but I would also highly reccommend Gilligan Gordon (whom has been around forever it seems) or Adam Curtis when it comes to using a great manager gimmick, both names synonymous with the glory days of 1PW and some fantastic work done by both in really propelling the feuds that their guys were wrestling in to the top. Chris Egan, who works mainly in the North West is another great worker and can do a great job for anyone. When it comes to valets, look no further than (in my opinion) the top 2 in the UK, Melanie Price and Violet Vendetta. Melanie is one of the most knowledgeable and lovely people you could ever hope to meet, she genuinely LOVES the business and her work, most notably with Nathan Cruz in NGW and The Models in Futureshock, HXC and various other promotions is second to none, again, the visual effect of the Models coming through the curtain would be a great one anyway…but how much more memorable is it that they have Mel appearing with them. I recently paired Mel up with T-Bone in that Miss Elizabeth style blue eye gimmick at HOP:E and she took to it like a duck to water, watch this space and see how that story plays out this year…it is going to be a rollercoatser ride! Then, based out of Stoke, there is Violet Vendetta, who is training hard in the ring as well and is my tip to be this years break out female in ring performer as well as continuing on with her valet work, again, most notably with The Predators at ProWrestling4U and with Brandon Thomas on the hugely successful AWW shows. I’m sure there are others I should mention but you are probably already regretting having started reading this weeks column as that is 15 minutes you will never get back! For my long winded ramblings this week, I apologise and thank you so much for the continued support and for taking the time to read the column!
In closing, I am often asked for managing advice and if I would be interested in running some form of workshop (I don’t want to call it a seminar as that has been done to death and is a really poor representation of what I could offer) for people who would really like to get into the ‘managing’ side of the wrestling business or indeed ring announcing or commentating…..the answer would be yes. I am perfectly willing to do such a thing should there be enough interest. We could do a 3 or 4 hour workshop in Nottingham one weekend to make it worthwhile for anyone wanting to do something solely based on Character or Promo work so if you would be interested in attending please drop me a line on Facebook or on my Twitter @TheHarveyDale. Again, I would like to thank The Indy Corner for approaching me with this opportunity.